Staplers & Other Paper Fasteners
Expansion in the volume of papers generated and stored in offices during the second half of the
nineteenth century created a demand for efficient ways to fasten papers together. As part
of our research at the Museum, we have investigated the development of early
staplers and other mechanical devices
that were sold to meet this demand between the 1850s and early 1940s. The
old paper fastening machines
discussed here were used not only to insert and clinch staples but also to insert other
types of paper fasteners, such as eyelets, and to attach papers together without the use
of fasteners by cutting and folding or crimping the paper itself.
Until circa 1860, and indeed for some time thereafter, the types of documents that today are
stapled together were fastened in a number of ways that did not require the use of
mechanical devices. Some documents were held together by stitches made with needles and
threads. Others were secured by strings, tapes or ribbons that were inserted through holes
made with a sharp instrument or though parallel incisions made with a
strings, tapes or ribbons were then tied and sometimes secured with sealing wax. Still
other papers were held together with straight pins or glue, and strings or ribbons were
tied around groups of papers.
We have found a 1787 reference to "a parcel tied with red tape, in imitation of
law-papers" and a 1783 reference to "a small bundle of papers,
fastened by a piece of red tape." (The Gentleman's Magazine
and Historical Chronicle, UK, 1787, p. 544; Liberal Opinions, or,
the History of Benignus, Samuel J. Pratt, London, 1783, p. 45) The
term "red tape" was used in its current figurative sense by
1894: "They [libraries] are frequented by some untrustworthy
persons whose dishonesty or recklessness subject all honest men to a
system of detectives and of red tape, which is annoying, mortifying, and
the occasion of some loss of time." (Rev. James Bassett, "The
Libraries of New York," Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly,
Jan-June, 1894, p. 179)
photo above shows Pyramid Pins of the type sold for use in offices
as well as homes by the New England Pin Co., Winsted, CT. In 1878, Charles J. Cohen,
Philadelphia, PA, advertised Pyramid Pins in a similar circular holder
patented in 1871. Mucilage, a water-soluble glue made from plants,
was advertised by Richard B. Dovell's Son & Co. and by Samuel S.
Stafford, both New York, NY, in 1867, and by Carter Bros. & Co.,
Boston, MA, and Chase & Bush, Philadelphia, PA, in 1868. A number of sellers exhibited mucilage along
with other office supplies at the 1876 International Exhibition.
Left: Morgan's Mucilage, 1881. Right: Carter's Mucilage,
Charles Slack states that the British firm Perry & Co. introduced the
rubber band in 1844, and that a licensee of Goodyear made rubber bands
around the same time in the US. (Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear,
Thomas Handcock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of
the Nineteenth Century, 2002, pp. 144, 155) We found
references to India rubber bands published in 1854, 1856, 1857, 1867,
1868, and 1876. Waterlow & Sons, London, advertised pins, elastic bands,
and red tape
in 1855. Geo. N. Davis & Brother, Boston, MA, advertised rubber
stationers' bands in 1856. (Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue
and Trade-Price List of India Rubber and Gutta Percha Goods) John W. Clothier,
Philadelphia, PA, advertised patent India rubber bands, red tape, and
mucilage c.1858. Henry G. Norton & Co, New York, NY,
advertised rubber elastic bands in 1867. The Rubber Clothing Co., New
York, NY, advertised elastic bands in 1868. In 1876, Henry Bainbridge & Co., New
York, NY, advertised Congress rubber bands. (Publishers' Weekly,
Vol. 10, 1876, p. 398)
F. M. Butler of New York, NY, exhibited sealing wax at
the Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association,
Boston, in 1837. Grigg & Elliot, Philadelphia, PA, advertised sealing
wax c.1850-60 (Hagley Museum and Library), Waterlow & Sons, London,
did so in 1855, Richard B. Dovell's Son & Co., New York, NY, did so in
1867, and Thaddeus Davids & Co.,
New York, NY, did so in 1876. Of course, sealing wax was
introduced centuries earlier.
Letter clips, which were similar mechanically although not in
appearance to modern clothes pins with springs, were patented at least as early as
1843, were advertised by Waterlow & Sons, London, in 1855 and by Wm.
Staehlen, New York, NY, in the late 1860s, and were marketed widely after 1876. For illustrations, visit
our exhibit on Filing Devices by clicking here.
These letter clips were also known as paper clips, but they should not be
confused with what are now known as paper clips. Small bent-wire paper clips were patented as early as 1867 but were not widely marketed until the
late 1890s. To visit our exhibit on theHistory of the Paper Clip,
Paper Fastening Technology Time
|1850s ~ Eyelets:
to the right shows Lipman's Improved Eyelet Machine, which
was advertised during 1878-85 for fastening papers. Hymen L. Lipman was awarded a patent for an eyelet machine in 1854.
However, even his 1854 machine had predecessors for fastening
papers. According to the 1854 patent: "In eyelet
machines as at present constructed, the eyelet cannot be riveted
from one side, and the consequence is that after it is partially
riveted from one side, it must be turned over, and completed.
To those who use these machines, this difficulty of turning over the
folios is obvious, as they are obliged to let go the sheets to be
fastened, and they frequently get out of place." Lipman
exhibited his eyelet machines at the 1876 International Exhibition
in Philadelphia. Eyelet machines were still advertised for
fastening papers in 1959. To see more eyelet presses, click here.
Lipman's Improved Eyelet Machine, 1880
1860s ~ Brass Paper
Fasteners: Metal paper fasteners
similar to the brass ones in the photograph to the right were patented as early as 1866
by George W. McGill. "Brass paper fasteners, 25 cts. per box"
are listed among the purchases for members of the 1869 Illinois
Constitutional Convention. In 1867, McGill patented a press
designed to punch holes in paper so that fasteners of this type could be inserted by
hand. The larger device in the photograph is a McGill
Fastener Press similar to the one patented in 1867. It was advertised as
early as 1880. The smaller
device is a McGill Fastener Punch
patented in 1874. McGill exhibited paper fasteners at the 1876 International
Exhibition in Philadelphia, but descriptions of the exhibit do not
enable one to determine whether he exhibited only the small brass
fasteners themselves or also fastener punches or presses. To see more paper fastener punches, click here.
McGill Paper Fasteners, 1874 & 1880
|1870s ~ Individual
Preformed Staples: The first desktop machine designed to fasten papers
by inserting and clinching metallic staples was patented in 1877
(US. Patent No. 195,603). A
number of the earliest machines held only one
preformed wire staple at a time and had to be reloaded each time they were used.
The photo to the right
shows one such machine, a McGill Single-Stroke Staple Press No. 1, which was
patented in 1879 and advertised during 1880-1909. To see several single-staple machines, click here.
OldStaplers.com reports that in 1868 and 1874, before the
development of machines that both inserted and clinched staples, two
patents were issued for machines that inserted, but that did not
McGill Staple Press, 1879
|1870s ~ Magazines
of Preformed Staples: The first stapling machine with a magazine that held a
supply of preformed wire staples that were fed automatically to the staple-driving
mechanism was patented in 1878. The Brown No. 5 Stapling Machine in
the photo to the right was patented in 1887. To see a number of additional early magazine stapling
machines, click here.
Brown Stapling Machine, 1887
|1880s ~ Staples
Formed from Spools of Wire: A desktop stapling machine that formed staples from wire
loaded on a spool was patented in 1880, and machines of this type were advertised as early
as 1882. The photo to the right shows a later machine of
this general type that used a spool of metal tape, the Eveready Paper Fastener,
which was patented in 1915 and advertised during 1916-42. To see several other wire spool stapling machines, click here.
Eveready Paper Fastener, 1915
|1890s ~ Staples
Cut from Strips: Moving along the paper fastener time line, stapling machines
that cut individual staples off a strip of connected metal staples were introduced
commercially in 1895 by the Jones Mfg. Co., the predecessor of the E. H. Hotchkiss Co. The photo to the right shows the earliest of these machines, the
1895 Star Paper Fastener.
The best-selling strip staple machine, the Hotchkiss No. 1 paper
fastener, was still marketed in 1950. To see a number of other strip
staple machines, as well as the staple strips they used, click here.
Star Paper Fastener, 1895
|1890s ~ Staples
Formed from Straight Pins: The Century Stapling
Machine, which was patented in 1897, and the similar Sun Stapling
Machine formed staples
from straight pins by cutting off the ends, bending what was left to form a staple, and
then inserting and clinching this staple.
Sun Stapling Machine, Sun Typewriter Co., New York, NY, 1900 ad. 1900 Price $1.50.
Century Stapling Machine, 1897
|1900s ~ Fastening
Papers without Metallic Fasteners: “Stapleless” paper fastening devices that did not
use a metallic fastener were introduced in 1909 by the Clipless Paper Fastener Co. and
in 1910 by Bump’s Perfected Paper Fastener Co. A Clipless or
paper fastener cuts and folds a small flap in the papers
in a way that locks the papers together. Bump machines were still
marketed in 1950. Curiously, the model of the Bump Stand
Machine that was introduced in 1916 was sold until 1950 with the
words "Patent Pending."
The Paper Welder, which was introduced
in 1941, crimps papers together. To see more stapleless paper
fasteners, click here.
Bump New Model Paper Fastener, 1910
Paper Welder, 1941
|1910s ~ Fastening
Papers with a Machine that Inserts Bent Wire Paper Clips: In 1914,
a device was introduced that pushed Niagara
bent-wire paper clips onto sets of papers (see photo to right). In 2003, ClipMagik
introduced an Electric Paper Clip Machine, which pushes Gem paper
clips onto sets of papers.
Niagara Clip, 1897
visit our exhibit on the History
of the Paper Clip, click here.
|1920s ~ Fastening
Papers with a Machine that Inserts Straight Pins: In 1926,
the Pinzit Co. of New York, NY, introduced a machine that inserted a straight
pin through sets of papers. The Pinzit was also advertised in 1927. A patent for the Pinzit was issued in 1930. The device first bent the papers sufficiently so
that the straight pin would pass through the papers from the top and then
pass through the papers again from the bottom.
Paper Fasteners: We have not yet included hand-held devices in
the paper fastener exhibits. Most paper fastening technologies have
been available in both hand-held and desktop models. The 1888 White's Staple Inserter pictured to the right
individual preformed staples. It was marketed for "Fastening
legal documents, binding pamphlets, briefs, magazines, etc." The 1915 Cliplox Paper Fastener
pictured below was used "for fastening papers and locking them
together without the use of pins, clips, or
1915 Cliplox Paper Fastener
White's Staple Inserter,
Courtesy of Cuyler Brooks
When Did the
Magazine Stapler Become Dominant?
Nearly all the
technologies described above co-existed for many years and were still marketed
at least as late as 1940.
In the end, staplers with magazines of preformed wire staples drove nearly all other paper fastening devices from the
desktop. Presumably there were several reasons that magazine staplers won out after many
years of co-existence:
The conventional magazine stapler
gained an important edge over competing technologies with the
development of cohered or frozen wire staples